'Your insistence on the Jan Lokpal Bill as the central issue is misplaced'
In an open letter to Team Anna, Colonel Anil Athale questions their obsession with the Lokpal Bill. Athale suggests the merger of existing anti-corruption wings of all departments and public enterprises with Lokpal instead of creating another huge army of clerks.
Dear Shri Anna and his team,
I was briefly associated with Anna in 1994-95, when, we at Initiative for Peace And Disarmament took an initiative to carry out socio-economic development in trouble-torn Kashmir. The idea was to see if the Ralegan Siddhi experiment could be duplicated in Kashmir. I am therefore acquainted with Anna's work in rural development.
In addition, as a former soldier, we all are naturally very proud of what Shri Anna has achieved. You and your team's success in bringing the issue of corruption to the forefront is indeed historic. But your insistence on the Jan Lokpal Bill as the central issue that will be able to reduce corruption substantially is misplaced. No less a person than the great Chanakya mentions it in the 'Arthasastra'.
"Just as fish moving under water cannot possibly be found out either as drinking or not drinking water, so government servants employed in government work cannot be found out (while) taking money (for themselves)", says Chanakya (Arthashastra, Chapter IX, "Examination of the Conduct of Government Servants" in Book II, "The Duties of Government Superintendents")
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Image: Anna Hazare addresses the media along with members of his team
'Lokpal will create one more army of bureaucrats and babus'
The problem of corruption or greed is as old as the Himalayas and so are the difficulties in dealing with it. Your insistence on 'quick' solution will prove counterproductive. I wish to draw your attention to a similar folly our nation committed in the 1980s with the 'Anti Defection Law'. Just as there is great public outrage over corruption today, at that time there was public anger over the phenomenon of 'aaya Ram-gaya Ram' or elected representatives changing parties, mainly to gain ministership and make money! But what has happened is that today the elected MPs are held hostage by the 'party high command', in most cases a family dominated business!
So, the anti-defection law has ended up making Indian democracy hostage to 'ruling families'. Worry is that Lokpal will create one more army of bureaucrats and babus. You must see the fate of various 'anti-corruption departments'!
Basically, the Lokpal is meant to punish the corrupt, but look what happened to the guilty in the fodder scam or the urea scam; Rs 132 crore was paid in advance and not a gram of fertiliser reached the country. The case is long forgotten.
So even if Lokpal detects, and the Central Bureau of Investigation under him investigates, there is no guarantee that the corrupt will be punished. Enough loopholes are left in all laws deliberately when bureaucrats make rules for its implementation.
A classic case is that Assam's agitation against illegal immigrants. In the 1980s it got mass support in Assam, but the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act that the government made was worse then the existing laws and not even 100 illegal immigrants were detected under it. Finally, the Supreme Court revoked it. I am afraid the Lokpal may well meet the same fate of the IMDT Act in Assam or become a remedy worse than the disease, like the Anti-Defection Act.
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'Current obsession with Lokpal will not achieve your aim'
I would suggest that you scale down the expectations from Lokpal and concentrate on finding laws/practices that lead to corruption like the Octroi Act. But the most important reform that is needed is to identify laws and areas that generate corruption and change them.
We must demand, above all, a major change in the Anti-Corruption Act where the burden of proof in 'benami' property and transactions and disproportionate assets cases must lie on the accused. This will also deal with mafia dons and their ill-gotten gains. Pending final decision, the assets should be confiscated and bank accounts frozen, so that delay does not work in favour of criminals. How come is it that all politicians move around in swank cars but their electoral declaration does not show it? How come cooks and drivers of VIPs own flats worth crores?
India has lot of hope in you and your team but you must harness it to launch a multi-pronged attack on corruption. The current obsession with Lokpal will not achieve your aim.
We hope that you and your team will consider this suggestion.
A concerned Indian citizen
Image: Anna Hazare on fast in support of a strong Lokpal Bill